Blake Barnett Likely To Be USF’s Starter In Season Opener

Reports lean toward Barnett as Bulls’ signal-caller

Based on postings that appeared on USF’s athletics web site following last Saturday’s and Wednesday’s closed scrimmages, it would seem as though Blake Barnett would have the upper hand in the three-way battle that includes redshirt junior Brett Kean and redshirt sophomore Chris Oladokun.

On Thursday night reports surfaced that the graduate transfer from Arizona State will indeed be under center when the Bulls open the 2018 season against visiting Elon next Saturday.

The USF postings indicated that Barnett led three scoring drives in Saturday’s scrimmage, after which coach Charlie Strong voiced his displeasure with the offense.

Maybe Strong was unhappy with the lack of push Kean and Oladokun gave Barnett. Who knows?

What is known, based on Wednesday’s USF practice report, is that Barnett was under center for the opening drive leading one to believe he had the upper hand in taking over for the departed Quinton Flowers.

For the first time in fall camp the quarterbacks were made available to the media following last Saturday’s scrimmage. Barnett, who has two years of eligibility, expressed he was pleased with his understanding of the offense.

“I think I have been picking it up pretty quick,” he said. “Everybody has had a fair shot and everybody has had equal reps. We are trying to apply ourselves and do the best we can to make this team productive.”

Barnett joined USF in May as a graduate transfer from Arizona State. He played in only two games for the Sun Devils last season after having lost out to Manny Wilkins.

The 22-year-old California native started his career at Alabama. He redshirted in 2015 before opening the 2016 season as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 quarterback. During the opener against USC, which was played in Arlington, Texas, Barnett threw for 100 yards and touchdown in a 52-6 win.

In the second quarter of that game Barnett was replaced by then-true freshman Jalen Hurts, who started the Tide’s remaining games in helping lead them to the national championship. Barnett was not around for the celebration, though, as he transferred out of Alabama at the end of September. He enrolled at Palomar College in California.

Then it was off to ASU, where Barnett received his undergraduate degree in liberal studies before arriving at USF in May.

“Coach Strong has been awesome,” said the married father of a five-month-old son. “He presented me with an opportunity to compete and that’s all I can ask for. I want to help provide for this team the best that I can.”

What Barnett starting for USF mean for Kean and Oladokun, of course, remains to be seen. The former does not have two years to wait and the latter, as a redshirt sophomore, would seem to have more options should he decide to resume his career elsewhere.

Then again, maybe Barnett does not take the job and run with it and either Kean, Oladokun or both are pressed into service at some point this season.

Something to remember is that three quarterbacks have combined for one career start and 62 career pass attempts, so perhaps nothing would seem nothing is set in stone. Though, Barnett appears to posses the chisel for the time being.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for, Tom also writes for and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.